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By-elections remain banned until people’s lives are safe: Ziyambi

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  • However, MDC Alliance MP for Zengeza Job Sikhala demanded to know why the ruling Zanu-PF was holding its District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections across the country if the environment was not safe. The MDC Alliance has also been holding primary elections across the country.

By Mutsa Makuvaza

JUSTICE, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said yesterday that the decree by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga suspending the holding of by-elections is lawful and shall remain in force until people’s lives are safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

Chiwenga, in his other role as the Minister of Health and Child Care, drafted the Statutory Instrument that suspended the by-elections citing fears of the pandemic.

Ziyambi was speaking in Parliament while responding to Mbizo MP, Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) who had asked why Zimbabwe had suspended by-elections when the World Health Organisation (WHO) had given the green-light to carry out political activities.

Chikwinya had said: “COVID-19 regulations are drafted in compliance with advice from the global regulations as provided by the World Health Organisation.  Now, the WHO has advised that elections can be conducted and indeed so many countries have proceeded to conduct national elections, Malawi included.

“We have by-elections which are pending and in his announcement, the Speaker said Statutory Instrument (SI) 225 (a) of 2020 was deemed unconstitutional by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC). 

“When is Zimbabwe going to hold the by-elections that are now overdue to replace the seats that were left vacant by members who left this Parliament this year?”

Ziyambi said the WHO simply makes observations and opinions which are “perfectly okay”, but Government is not bound to apply every piece of advice that WHO or any non-State agency produces.

“We do not just take advice for the sake of advice otherwise it will not be advice at all; it will be a directive.  In our case, we analyse the advice or the statements that are issued by international organisations and we apply them to our local condition.  

“Let us not worry about what WHO said. We take what we believe is applicable to our own environment,” he said.

Ziyambi added that in terms of when by-elections will be held, that will be guided by the situation in the ground. He said the right to hold the by-elections had only be suspended for a limited time and not for good.

Said Ziyambi: “Coming to when the by-elections will be held, we have a state of public health emergency or a state of pandemic that was declared by His Excellency.  That declaration is ending next year in January.  

“Pursuant to that, which is perfectly legal; several Statutory Instruments were enacted to give effect to that declaration in order for us to control the pandemic and among the S.I. that was issued was one that dealt with holding of elections to say that they are suspended for the duration of the pandemic.  

“In other words, we have just simply suspended the right for some time.  Once we believe that the system has normalised and that we do not endanger the lives of our citizenry we will then proceed with the by-elections.”

Ziyambi said the prevailing curfew meant that a lot of people would be criminalized if by-elections were to be held under the current circumstances.   

“We also have to be mindful that there is a curfew that is still in place. When people are campaigning and there is a curfew, we are bound to criminalise a lot of our people.  So we took into consideration several factors in coming up with that position. 

“However, this is merely a suspension of that right of holding by-elections for the duration of the declaration of the pandemic and they will be held as per our constitutional provisions and our enabling Act – the Electoral Act,” said Ziyambi.

However, MDC Alliance MP for Zengeza Job Sikhala demanded to know why the ruling Zanu-PF was holding its District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections across the country if the environment was not safe. The MDC Alliance has also been holding primary elections across the country.

“Primary elections are being held across the political divide and in holding those primary elections they are not distinct from by elections that could be held in this country,” said Sikhala. 

“Why are primary elections being allowed to take place but when it comes to by elections, the Government changes goal posts?  That is the question and we want an answer to that question.”

Ziyambi said that question would be better directed to police as to why the law enforcement agents were allowing people or political parties to hold political events during the lockdown.

“The issue of enforcement that Hon. Sikhala is talking about is a separate matter from the legislative process. There are two issues here – legislating and enforcing.  

“Perhaps we should ask the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and the relevant organs that deal with enforcement, why they are allowing the flouting of regulations under COVID-19.

“Primary elections are governed by any other law that is there to control COVID-19.  I am not aware of whatever was happening, whether there were primary elections or not – I do not know.

“What I know is that we came up with legislation to ensure that we continue surviving because the dead do not vote.  So we said to ourselves, in terms of our capabilities and the nature of the pandemic we are going to suspend the right to vote until the pandemic is over,” explained Ziyambi.

Commenring on a related matter, Acting Speaker of the National Assembly, Tatenda Mavetera, said the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) was still considering the Statutory Instrument issued suspending by-elections.

“I am being advised by the Clerk here that the PLC is still considering the S.I. in question and has not pronounced its step on the matter,” she said. – Zimbabwe Voice

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